Want Your Emails to Convert Better? Use the Call-to-Action Sandwich

How do you feel about sandwiches?

I can’t imagine my life without them.

I often spend half an hour making me a sandwich for breakfast. Preparing a perfect spread. Slicing several types of fresh veggies. Cutting my herbs.

Sometimes, I’d also eat a sandwich for lunch. And dinner.

I ❤️️ sandwiches so much that I get cranky if I can’t get one for breakfast when we travel (embarrassing, but true).

Have I convinced you that I’m a real sandwich connoisseur and have full authority to talk about sandwiches?


Because today, we’ll be talking about the “call-to-action sandwich” – an approach that should help you structure your sales emails more effectively (and increase conversions).

Have you heard about the call-to-action sandwich?

Me neither.

But yesterday, after an email I had to create for a client, I decided to declare it a thing and am going to describe it in detail below.

With a template and some examples on how to use it.

Because, as it turns out, it can help you increase conversions.

But first, let’s agree on what a sandwich is.

Belegtes Körnerbrötchen
A delicious ham sandwich with a freshly baked grain roll

Camembert sandwich
A scrumptious sandwich for cheese lovers with a pomegranate topping

Peanut butter and jelly “sandwich”
An imposter and a disgrace for the sandwich family

Glad we clarified that.

For our purposes, talking about the CTA sandwich, we’d be considering the sandwich #2 (an “open” sandwich with no slice of bread on the top).

If you’ve made a proper sandwich a couple of times before, you may have noticed that there are certain rules that, if broken, will ruin it:

  • If you use too many ingredients, your sandwich will be too tall. It won’t fit into your mouth, and you’ll make a huge mess eating it.
  • If you don’t put a protective layer between the bread and the rest – butter, mayonnaise, an oily spread – your bread will get soggy (yuck!)
  • If you put too many ingredients before your meat or a large piece of cheese, you may squeeze too much juice out of them (soggy bread). Stuff may start falling out (a mess). Or both.
  • Sandwiches with colorful ingredients on top (veggies, herbs, drops of topping) look much more appetizing.

The same goes for writing sales emails to promote your new service, a course or a tool subscription.

The CTA sandwich approach

Follow these 3 principles to create a conversion-optimized sales email:

1) Don’t make your email too long

It’s an email, not a sales page. Don’t wait too long to show your main CTA.

2) Add an obligatory layer first

Add a CTA as soon as possible BUT not before you’ve presented a minimum set of arguments that would justify a click on that CTA.*

* – which depends on a kind of commitment you’re asking for and the awareness of your audience, but that’s a story for another time.

3) Add some color at the end to make your offer more appealing

After the CTA, give people an additional reason to click: add a supporting argument, address an objection, provide social proof, etc.

To illustrate:

A basic principle of building a conversion-optimized CTA sandwich, I mean, conversion-optimized email

What may seem obvious in theory is not that obvious in real life.

Let’s look at some examples.

[Email #1] List of ingredients:

  • Get a free 2-week trial.
  • Here’s the list of all great things you could accomplish.
  • Cancel anytime. We’ll send you an email one day before to remind you to cancel so you don’t get charged if you don’t want to continue.
  • CTA: Start your free trial.

How would you make this sandwich?

It seems obvious at the first glance:

The “I’m going to forget to cancel, and they’ll charge me money” objection is strong enough to be included into the main argument. So you’d think you’d structure your email like this:

But wait.

Didn’t the CTA sandwich principle say that we need to sprinkle something “on top” of the CTA to make the “sandwich” more appealing?

Yes, it did. So, let’s open our fridge and get out some social proof:

That’s better.

Now, let’s look at another, seemingly similar example.

[Email #2] List of ingredients:

  • Special offer: Extended free trial. You get 4 weeks instead of 2.
  • Here’s the list of all great things you could accomplish.
  • Valid only today.
  • Cancel anytime. We’ll send you an email one day before to remind you to cancel if you like.
  • CTA: Start your free trial

What’s the main argument here?

It’s probably safe to assume that the main benefit (get all the usual trial benefits for longer) + urgency will be enough for a minimal argument.

So, our CTA sandwich would be this:

Notice how this time, addressing the main objection gets placed after the CTA, and we don’t use any testimonial anymore (only because we can, doesn’t mean we should).

“Wait, why don’t we need a testimonial at the end again?”

As the “sandwich principle #1” states, our sandwich shouldn’t be too thick and we should keep our email short.

The place after the CTA is reserved for the final nudge. And there, only one thing is enough: either addressing the main objection or a testimonial, not both.

And dddressing an objection is more powerful than a testimonial.

If your prospects have a serious concern you didn’t take care of in your copy or have a deal breaker question that remained unanswered, this is a big obstacle that will most likely prevent them from clicking on the CTA.

An absence of a testimonial may not necessarily be a problem though, especially in an email where they aren’t typical.

To summarize: The CTA sandwich approach

  • Don’t use too many ingredients
  • Obligatory layer first
  • Add some color on top to make it more appealing

Bonus tip: It’s generally a good idea to think about creating your copy in terms of “ingredients”: to lay out the structure of your page or email first, and think about the exact words later.

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